Maricopa County budget officials say a financial review of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office records provide evidence that the office has misspent at least $50 million in taxpayer dollars and that Arpaio broke the law. KPHO reports:
Maricopa County Communications Director Cari Gerchick said the documents show Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used a voter approved fund for jail expenses to pay for items unrelated to the jails.
“A lot of money has been used on street patrol; which is not an appropriate use of jail tax dollars,” said Gerchick.
The county conducted a financial review of MCSO records after several questionable spending items came to officials’ attention.
Those items include an extradition trip to Alaska where deputies stayed at a fishing resort and training trips to Disneyland.
“What we have discovered through viewing that documents is that those suspicions were well founded,” said Gerchick.
Watch KPHO’s coverage:
County officials also found that jail funds were going towards Arpaio’s human smuggling unit which is frequently deployed to chase undocumented immigrants around the Phoenix area and arrest them for smuggling themselves across the border. If found guilty, those immigrants are routinely jailed for 90 days at the taxpayer’s expense rather than being immediately deported back to their home country.
Meanwhile separate investigations conducted by the Arizona Republic have documented “the questionable use of public funds by high-ranking sheriff’s officials, who routinely used county-issued credit cards to charge expensive meals and stays at luxury hotels.” The Arizona Republic also found that another fund meant to improve conditions in county jails was spent by Arpaio’s officials on more “out-of-state training, stays at luxury hotels, a staff party at a local amusement park and a $456,000 bus to transport inmates to court.”
For a long time, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office refused to even turn over financial documents, saying the Board of Supervisors officials who requested them were abusing their power.
These allegations come on the heels of another Arpaio-related controversy. A high-ranking Maricopa County officer recently submitted a 63-page memorandum claiming that the department’s number-two officer, Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott, “used the department’s anti-corruption unit to spy on political rivals.” Arpaio is also being sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to cooperate with a civil rights investigation. The FBI is meanwhile looking into accusations that Arpaio has been “using his position to settle political vendettas” against those who have been critical of his controversial police tactics, primarily his aggressive pursuit of undocumented immigrants.
Two independent reports by the East Valley Tribune and the Goldwater Institute show that Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement crusade alone has contributed to a huge county budget deficit and that crime rates have actually escalated as Arpaio has failed to arrest top smugglers and criminals.
Arizona currently faces a a projected fiscal 2011 deficit of about $750 million. A $1 billion budget deficit was recently projected for fiscal 2012.
Maricopa County budget officials are now saying Arpaio could’ve misspent anywhere between $60 million to $80 million over five years.